Responsible land management and operational strategy earn Tacoma Water two big awards

Utility designated ‘Landowner of the Year’ by WDFW

Protecting the Green River Watershed to provide customers with safe, reliable water serves as a key responsibility for Tacoma Water. The role includes everything from protecting lands by controlling and securing access to creating habitat for fish and wildlife to protecting nest sites for sensitive species to jointly managing approved and permitted hunts.

Those actions, along with many other habitat and species protection activities, earned the utility the Citizen Award – Landowner of the Year from the Washington State Department of Wildlife (WDFW).

The state agency recognized two utility employees, Green River Watershed Manager Bryan King and Environmental Program Manager Greg Volkhardt, and their teams for their part in the environmental stewardship and wildlife management in the watershed.

Since 1984, organized hunts have enabled state hunters to harvest 937 deer, 571 elk and 21 bears. These hunts are critical to effective wildlife management, but must be conducted with careful oversight to ensure continuous water quality protection for customers.

“We help manage hunts in the watershed for people who receive permits through WDFW. These organized hunts help us connect with the folks we serve and with our neighbors in the watershed,” King said. “There is an important environmental benefit that comes from these hunts, in that they help us manage elk and deer populations in accordance with the available food, habitat, and other ecosystem needs. The hunts also provide a quality hunting experience and put food on the table for families.”

As manager of environmental programs, Volkhardt leads the long-term implementation of the Green River Habitat Conservation Plan – hundreds of pages that identify how the utility will protect species, manage the forest lands, and keep the watershed pristine, and fish and wildlife healthy.

“It is an honor to receive the designation of ‘Landowner of the Year’ from an agency I hold in high regard,” said Volkhardt. “We are committed to the protection of the watershed because it’s what will best serve our customers and because it matches our personal and corporate values.”

Tacoma Water earns a “W” for infrastructure planning
With new insight into the 1,200 miles of water mains in its system, Tacoma Water has figured out a way to squeeze more life out of its infrastructure than the utility previously thought possible.

For that work, the utility recently won the 2017 Excellence in Engineering Best Planning Project from the Pacific Northwest Section of the American Water Works Association.

With the overarching goal of replacing the right mains at the right time, the utility has spent a few years developing a model that determines the likelihood of a water main’s failure based on age, material, presence of corrosive soils and other factors. Added to that is an assessment of the impact of a main failure in a particular location. If there could be a major impact, that main has a good chance of being replaced sooner rather than later.

“Ultimately, this project provides value to our customers by making the most of every dollar we invest in main replacements,” said Seth Doull, Tacoma Water’s asset management supervisor. “We want to extend the life of mains where possible and put money toward infrastructure that’s more likely to fail and has a higher consequence when it does fail. It’s a complicated process, but well worth the effort, and it will continue to pay off into the future.”

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